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51st State Plan Gets New Push
Commonwealth leader urges Congress to back White
by Stewart M. Powell
March 2, 2000
Copyright © 2000 TIMES UNION. All Rights Reserved.
WASHINGTON -- Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello lobbied Congress
Wednesday to join a White House-led effort that could clear the
way for the former Spanish colony to become the nation's 51st
Rossello urged members of the House and Senate to approve a
White House request for $2.5 million to underwrite a landmark
federal effort to end Puerto Rico 's ambiguous political status
as a U.S. commonwealth.
Rossello said he hopes that a White House conference with members
of Congress and political leaders from Puerto Rico could begin
deliberations shortly that "would result this year in a definite
recommendation" on a binding plebiscite in Puerto Rico giving
voters a clear choice between statehood, independence and continuation
of commonwealth status.
The White House-backed effort to update Puerto Rico's commonwealth
status was a little-noticed sweetener in a deal that Rossello
struck with Clinton on Jan. 31 to permit the Navy and Marine Corps
to resume modified combat training on the small Puerto Rican island
The agreement on Vieques calls for Washington to provide $40
million in economic development assistance to the island's 9,300
residents, reduce noisy military training and hold a binding referendum
on future Navy use of the island by February 2002. The Navy owns
two-thirds of Vieques.
If residents vote for the Navy to leave, the Navy will withdraw
by 2003. If residents vote to permit resumption of live-fire combat
training, the plan calls for the White House and Congress to provide
another $50 million in assistance.